2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. Volunteers across Europe played a very important
contribution in remembering the victims of war and reminding us of the importance of sustained peace in Europe.
Volunteers also contributed greatly during the war itself to relieve the suffering of citizens on all sides in the conflict.
In recognition of these volunteers we invited individual volunteers and volunteer groups to share information about
the activities they did to remember World War I.
‘HUNDRED DAY VOLUNTEERS’ ARE TRAINED UP FOR THE FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY AT IWM LONDON
By Jim Hutchinson, Volunteer Programme Manager, Imperial War Museums (IWM) London Branches
When the regenerated IWM London opened its doors to visitors on Saturday 19 July, after nearly two years of both partial and full closure, we could expect to be busier than normal. When, however, you add to normal summer holiday visitor flows the looming centenary of the First World War and high levels of public interest in both the centenary itself and IWM’s new exhibitions dedicated to this conflict, then you can safely assume you are going to be much busier than normal!
From such thinking and planning by IWM’s management came the agreement to establish a special short term team of Centenary Support Volunteers to work in partnership with our paid Visitor Services staff teams to welcome the many thousands of extra visitors expected at IWM London this summer. With it being 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War it was agreed that a 100 day volunteer project linked to the first opening period of the new galleries from 19 July to 26 October would be particularly appropriate.
Once it was decided earlier this year to press ahead with this new short term volunteer role we put the word out on IWM’s website, in our local volunteer centres in Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster and to all of our existing London branches volunteers. By the time that our final recruitment screening session was held on 26 June more than 50 volunteers had been identified by myself and Linda Davies our Visitor Experience Manager at IWM London to be trained in the new centenary Support Volunteer role. Four training sessions for the new team were staged at IWM London on 25 and 28 June and on 2 and 11 July. After these sessions some team members had an opportunity to assist with an invited guest preview event on Friday 18 July and then the 100 days began!
At the end of the 100 days of volunteering we will be reviewing and celebrating this volunteer role and determining whether it should be repeated in the future at predicted peak visitor periods during national holidays or the launch of other Centenary linked exhibitions during the next four years.
Kitted out and ready to go! New Centenary Support Volunteers at IWM London (from left to right) Rob Wilson, Maria Bell, Sue Marguet, Paul Treacy and Carol Mulholland at their role training session on Friday 11 July.
James Taylor, Head of Research and Information, updates Centenary Support Volunteers on the new First World War galleries at the role training session on 25 June
The Flemish Centre for Voluntary Association in Antwerp is a non-for profit organization focused on volunteering and aiming to provide great examples of volunteering for others to get inspired.
In view of the WWI remembrance, in 2014 the organization will focus on initiatives that enable volunteers to remember WWI:
The memory of the anniversary of the Great War in Antwerp will not go unnoticed. Antwerp was, after all, during the Great War, the temporary capital of Belgium. Thus, the royal family, government and parliament, and the army were temporarily housed there.
The project Antwerp ’14 – ’18 brings together a wide range of educational, historical and cultural activities. The organization chooses a human and historically relevant war story but not a military story. The highlight of the project is the construction of a pontoon bridge over the river Scheldt, in memory of the pontoon bridge that was used in 1914. This bridge was used for food distribution and as an escape route for the army and people, before it was destroyed. During the weekend of October 3 to 5, the pontoon bridge is open to anyone who has a ticket.
For such a large project many helping hands are of course required: ticket sales, the information point, guides and so on. The majority of these helpers are volunteers. The project was initiated by a non-profit organization of the Peace Centre in Antwerp.
High voltage at the Belgian-Dutch border
In the run-up to the commemoration 2014-2018, a transnational project has been completed with the help of volunteers consisting of a book, a course, a website, two walks and a cycle route. All these with the theme: “Power to the Belgian-Dutch border”, referring to the electric wire barrier between Belgium and the Netherlands. Seventeen authors participated in the book launch attended by 350 enthusiastic participants. The evening courses were each attended by about 120 participants, a fair number of whom are themselves involved as volunteers in the organization of local WW1 memorial activities.
Volunteers led cyclists and walkers along the “dead line” between the Dutch Baarle-Nassau and neighboring municipalities Baarle-Hertog (Zondereigen), Hoogstraten, Brand Plas and Ravel. The cycle route (38 km) has fifteen thematic information boards. At eleven stops one can listen to recorded stories via QR code. Along the way are reconstructions of the dead wire, sentry houses and a switch housing. Five coordinators, all volunteers, developed the project. At least fifty members of the local history circle also participated on a completely voluntary basis.
Remembering the German invasion
41 volunteers participated in the 5km walks on 21 and 22 February, as a guide, actor, extra, helper etc. They reconstructed the events that occurred around the areas of Aarschot, Tessenderlo, Veerle, Herselt, Okselaar Molenstede during the First World War. Approximately 655 people participated in the commemorative walks. Volunteers have also contributed to associated film recordings.
The Great War and Volunteers: Last Post
This year marks the beginning of the First World War commemorations. The Last Post Association is a volunteer organization from Ypres. It was founded in 1928 and since then volunteers from the organization have organized every year the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. This is a tradition they want to maintain permanently, for which they count on the continued support of their dedicated volunteers.
1280 volunteers for Front Light 2014
The City of Ypres is looking for 1280 volunteers to participate in “Gone West”, an artistic commemoration of 100 years since the start of the Great War in West Flanders. They need volunteers to hold torches along 13 km of the historical front line on 17 October ’14 taking part in a total line covering a distance of 85 km. Other municipalities are providing additional volunteers. Anyone older than 14 years can register to participate either as an individual, as a family or as an association.
Earlier this year CEV Director Gabriella Civico visited Imperial War Museum Duxford. She was shown around by Eric Hitchcock who is a volunteer at the museum, carrying out roles in both the Conservation and Interpretation Departments. Eric’s contribution to the restoration of First World War artefacts together with his fellow volunteers provides an invaluable support to the museum staff of professional conservators. There are almost 500 volunteers at IWM Duxford who contribute in different ways to protecting the historical memory of the First World War and they benefit from the assistance of volunteer manager Nicola Hughes. “We have volunteers from all walks of life, ages and experience” said Nicola who went on to say that “without them the museum could not provide the educational experience it gives to our 363’529 annual visitors”. Volunteering at the museum provides added value for the volunteers themselves, enabling them to stay active and sometimes, as is the case with Eric, leading to a part-time job in another museum.
Gabriella and Eric are pictured here together with a restored First World War aircraft. IWM Duxford is renowned for its aircraft and vehicle conservation work.
October brought another WWI remembrance event in Belgium.
On 17 October, at 19.00 h sharp, 8400 volunteers lifted their torches creating a human chain of about 85 km.
From Nieuwpoort to Ploegsteert, locals were asked to turn off their lights and be enlightened by the powerful and symbolic torches being lit all at the same time. The names of all known victims were projected on the three main towers on the frontline, the Belfry in Ypres, the Iron Tower in Diksmuide and the King Albert I in Nieuwpoort.
King Philip and Queen Mathilde were also present at the Ploegsteert Memorial, where 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth delivered her first public speech, saying: “We will never forget those who fell here. It is now up to us, the young, to keep the torch high”.